Date published: February 12, 2010
The champ: Not only will Mike Edwards begin the season with his first Pro Stock title campaign under his belt and a bit more horsepower, but he also should have the added advantage of bolstered confidence.
Edwards was his most severe critic last year after he lost a few races due to starting-line mishaps and at times was plagued with selfdoubt, but during the six-race Countdown to 1, he proved that he could rise to the occasion when he held off his challengers in a most convincing and impressive fashion with his national-record-setting victory in Virginia. With the big No. 1 on his window this year, Edwards will be the target for every driver in the other lane, who all will be giving him their best shot on the Tree. But after prevailing last year, Edwards should be well-equipped to deal with the starting-line pressure.
Edwards' engine program, which has already exceeded anyone's wildest expectations, has shown no signs of slowing and should be equally effective in 2010. The Edwards camp also has the advantage of its uncanny chassisand clutch-tuning capabilities, which were honed while Edwards ran with leased engines that produced less power. Working closely with crew chief Terry Adams and the rest of the team, Edwards had by far the most consistent car of 2009, often setting low elapsed time in just about every qualifying session. Edwards racked up a lot of extra points when the bonusqualifying- points program began during the Countdown to 1, and with that program in effect for all of 2010, it should work to Edwards' advantage even more.
The challengers: The three drivers who gave Edwards his stiffest competition in 2009, the KB Racing tandem of Greg Anderson and Jason Line and 2007-08 Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., are expected to repeat those roles this season. Anderson will begin the year with a new RJ Race Cars Pontiac GXP that debuted with a 6.52 best, the best of all of the factory hot rods at a test session in Bradenton, Fla., which has given Anderson optimism for the upcoming season. And, of course, his excellent record in Pomona, which includes a 6.52 national record at last year's season opener and a victory at the season closer, boosts his hopes for a solid start.
After three campaigns with four-win career bests, Line upped that total to five last year and has worked diligently with the KB Racing team in the off-season in hopes of increasing that total again.
The spotlight will be on Coughlin, whose usually dependable Cobalt unexpectedly experienced a variety of handling woes that resulted in aborted runs and cost him in his bid for a third straight title. After having completely gone through the chassis during the offseason, Coughlin's team is more than pleased with the car's stability, which indicates that Coughlin should return to his regular form. If that's the case, it could be trouble for the rest of the Pro Stock contingent because of Coughlin's unflappable skills as a driver.
Performance potential: Pro Stock elapsed times have dropped steadily in recent years, and there is no reason to expect anything different in 2010. The vast majority of the teams predict that Edwards' 6.50 record will be broken with a clocking in the 6.48 to 6.49 range. The speed mark of 212.36 is also anticipated to be eclipsed with a higher 212 or even a 213 should optimum atmospheric conditions develop.
What's new: The biggest news in quite some time is the return of Ford to factory hot rod competition. With two new engine designs from Ford's engineers and the tooling costs covered by longtime Ford racing enthusiast Jim Cunningham, the largest number of Ford entries (all swoopy new '10 Mustangs) in years will grace the staging lanes in Pomona. In addition to Cunningham and his team driver, Erica Enders, who will be making a longawaited return to full-time competition, others in the Ford lineup are Larry Morgan, who helped with the engine development; John Nobile, who will run a Morgan engine; Robert Patrick; and several others will join as the season unfolds. Morgan's 6.54 in his Ford's maiden passes at the Bradenton test session indicates that he has wasted little time in sorting out this new combination.